These anime characters keep handling their problems like reasonable adults. It’s very confusing.
I was working on a short blurb for a compilation post and it ballooned into 500+ words, so I appear to have at least tentatively committed to blogging Snow White with the Red Hair this season, too. Surprise! Monday nights are a little hectic for me, but I’ll try to get these up within 24 hours of the original airing—Tuesday evening at the very latest. As always, I’ll let you know via Twitter if that ever changes.
Also as always, these posts assume you’ve seen the episode under discussion, so I’ll be mentioning specific plot points and character beats. Also, no manga spoilers in the comments, please! I’ve read a little bit but other readers haven’t, so let’s be courteous to them in our discussions. Thanks! Now hit the jump for lovely art and even lovelier people.
It’s so refreshing to watch an anime where its characters take a moment to consider, communicate, and then act in mature and thoughtful ways to deal with their problems. Both Shirayuki and Zen are a delight together, relaxed and friendly while still having little moments of embarrassment, insecurity, or surprise. They may have already settled into a rhythm of casual intimacy, but there’s still a lot they don’t know about each other, and this week was all about how they react to that new information.
In the episode’s first half, Zen comes to fully understand Shirayuki’s dedication to her future career. Her commitment to her work brings her down to the greenhouse after hours, where she’s locked inside for the night (by the head pharmacist herself, no doubt) and proves to both Zen and the audience that she’s both a knowledgeable worker as well as a passionate one. It’s here (as well as later when she’s defending Ryuu’s experiments) that we’re once again reminded that Shirayuki’s still waters not only run deep, but conceal a powerful current. She goes above and beyond and passes her exam with flying colors, already earning her respect from the head physician.
The second half of the episode is largely about Shirayuki settling into her new position working under fellow pharmacist Ryuu, and especially about her coming to understand the potentially painful responsibilities she’s taken upon herself. Becoming a palace pharmacist was about finding a way to pursue her career without giving up her personal relationships, yes, but it was also about Shirayuki wanting to become someone who could give back to Zen, the person who very literally changed her life.
This week she comes face to face with exactly what her new path may entail, and the hard truth that Zen’s life is constantly in danger, even if implicitly. As Zen’s physician, she’s in charge of protecting him not just from common illnesses and injuries, but from the very real possibility of assassination attempts.
In a beautifully staged scene, Shirayuki realizes the full weight of Zen’s position as a prince, and gets a glimpse at the kinds of hardships he’s had to undertake simply to stay alive. Thanks to Ryuu, Zen is there to help Shirayuki through this revelation, and the two are able to grow even closer in the process.
The moment is painted in long shadows slowly giving way to rays of pale sunlight, with Shirayuki and Zen both hovering in the center, neither wholly dark nor light, despairing nor hopeful, but rather a complex blend of the two. It’s a powerful moment made all the more moving by how understated it is, as Shirayuki doesn’t make a fuss or demand further explanations, and Zen doesn’t try to lie to her or brush it off as unimportant. It’s not something either can change, and they both know that. All they can do is acknowledge it, comfort each other, learn from it, and move on from there.
The introduction of prodigy Ryuu, a young pharmacist, as well as his interest with plant poisons, also serves to highlight the episode’s central idea: That there’s a fine, often-dangerous line between poison and medicine, between nurturing a plant to become something that can save lives and something that can end them, and that it’s a pharmacist’s job to know the difference and ensure the former while preventing the latter. I suspect this theme of nature/nurture and saving potential will eventually tie into Zen’s own royal responsibilities, and I’m curious to see how it develops.
For such a low-key series, there’s actually quite a lot of underlying tension here, and Snow White is showing glimmers of becoming more complex than the relaxing romance it initially seemed. Here’s to exploring both that and the relaxing romance in the coming weeks.